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Bad story on combining Delta / NWA miles – and 4 lessons

Bad story on combining Delta / NWA miles – and 4 lessons

 
Old Apr 6, 09, 11:38 am
  #1  
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Bad story on combining Delta / NWA miles – and 4 lessons

A brief story on a bad situation, how it got resolved, and 4 take-away lessons:

In January 2009 I called Northwest Airlines to get 2 frequent flyer RT tickets from BOS to PHL in February. I used 25,000 NWA miles for one ticket and a combination of Northwest & Delta miles for the other. All flights were on Delta. The transaction was complicated because the sales agent was pulling the miles from the two accounts. In the end, I was told all was set and I had my two confirmation numbers.

A few days before the flight I confirmed online and printed the info page. Got to the airport about 90 min early and checked in at the counter. Got slips of paper to get through security and was told to get seat assignments at gate. Got boarding passes at the gate but was told there was a problem. For the next 40 minutes several Delta staffers worked by computer & by phone with NWA. They finally figured out that somehow my ticket hadn’t been processed. I was told three minutes before the flight (the last flight of the day) that it was too late for it to be processed as a frequent flyer. The supervisor said the only way to get on the flight was to buy a ticket. She said NWA knew the error was theirs and that I would get reimbursed. I bellied up my credit card and was charged $1,043.19 for RT tickets for the one-hour flight. I angsted about all this for much of the trip – it was such a sour experience and I knew it would be a drag to get reimbursed.

It was a drag. It took six weeks, lots of calls and Emails. I pity someone in this situation with less tenacity; it was not easy.

However, I’m happy to share what I learned! Here are my lessons:

1) Make sure that in addition to a confirmation number, you have an actual ticket number after booking. I didn’t have one. I didn’t notice. Neither did any of the numerous staff people who reviewed my reservation printout at the airport as I made my way to the gate.

2) Take names if things begin falling apart. I got the name of the supervisor who told me I would get reimbursed and the names of every customer service person I spoke with by phone in the days afterwards. I was stressed out as the event was unfolding so my husband was the one who noted the name of the supervisor. It’s good to have back-up when you’re melting down!

3) Move the problem up the chain of command quickly. This was a complicated case to resolve because the error was with NWA ticketing, but the fee was collected by Delta. Delta told me NWA would reimburse me, but NWA said that Delta had to reimburse me, since it collected the money. (Yes, they’re the same company now, but computer systems and refund departments aren’t totally linked yet.) After talking with and/or leaving messages by Email and phone with people at Delta Skymiles, NWA Worldperks, and Delta refunds, I jumped several levels and sent an Email directly to [email protected]. Robertson is vp of loyalty programs with Delta and his name is on all the mailings about the joining together of the two loyalty programs. Within a day of Emailing him I got a call from something called “Delta’s executive call back desk,” and a nice woman named Louise Thomas became my advocate in getting the refund processed.

4) Follow-up regularly. By the end of the first week of conversation with Ms. Thomas, I was told that NWA Worldperks would process the refund on 3/2 and that it would take 7-10 business days. After 10 days I called back, and was told it actually would take 2-3 weeks. After 3 weeks I called again, and she said she’d check on it. After 4 weeks, I re-mailed Jeff and asked, “What gives? Where’s my money?” This time I cc:ed [email protected]. The next day Ms. Thomas called to say that, “we now have it refunded on our end and it will take 7-10 days to show up.”

==

Whether Delta finally gave in and did the refund itself instead of waiting on NWA to do so I don’t know, but one week later I finally had the money in my Visa account. In a final jerky touch, however, the refund was short $5, which is the fee I would have been charged if NWA had processed the ticket correctly the first time.

Shortly after I booked my ticket in January Delta set up a way for customers to transfer their own the miles between Delta and NWA accounts. Hopefully this should result in fewer problems like mine.
LeslieB024 is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 1:30 pm
  #2  
 
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Originally Posted by LeslieB024 View Post
This time I cc:ed [email protected].
Smart move.

Thanks for sharing the cautionary tale!

David
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Old Apr 6, 09, 1:32 pm
  #3  
fti
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Welcome to FT.

Good lessons learned but I take exception to #2.

Don't get names just when things start falling apart. Whenever I am on the phone with a company - airline or any other business - I write down the date and time of the call and the name of the person I am speaking with. I get the name at the BEGINNING of the conversation since if I ask for it at the end, they often realize why I want it - to hold them accountable.

John
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Old Apr 6, 09, 1:36 pm
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Originally Posted by LeslieB024 View Post
The transaction was complicated because the sales agent was pulling the miles from the two accounts. In the end, I was told all was set and I had my two confirmation numbers.
We weren't able to link accounts in January. I'm confused on how this should have even been possible to do...
SchmutzigMSP is offline  
Old Apr 6, 09, 1:50 pm
  #5  
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5) Pick another airline. Delta's in a downward spiral, especially with regard to its frequent flyer program(s)s.

I still say they should make Jeff the official ombudsman/fixer & put Bob Soukup in charge of the FF programs.
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Old Apr 6, 09, 1:56 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by SchmutzigMSP View Post
We weren't able to link accounts in January. I'm confused on how this should have even been possible to do...
Even before accounts could be linked by customers online, it was possible for at least some reservation agents working for DL-NW to combine miles from a DL and a NW account and issue awards using miles drawn from the DL and NW account -- this was being done in order to make up for mileage shortfalls to get the award ticket issued. It was some weeks later that we -- as customers -- were able to link accounts, but some agents had been doing it even before the customers could.
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Old Apr 6, 09, 2:00 pm
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Originally Posted by SchmutzigMSP View Post
We weren't able to link accounts in January. I'm confused on how this should have even been possible to do...
Apparently she called NW to book the award and they were able to deduct the miles from both accounts to book the ticket. I had no idea we could have done that. Kudos to the OP who was able to get DL/NW to do it in the first place!
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